“This is a cave, not a wall,” said the Working Families Party after President Donald Trump announced on Friday a deal to temporarily end the 35-day government shutdown over his demand for a border wall.
Speaking outside the White House, Trump said the bipartisan deal to fund the government through Feb. 15 would be immediately put forth by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). If approved by Congress, though it will contain no funding for the wall, Trump said he would sign it.
How pathetic. On Dec. 19, the Senate unanimously passed essentially the same legislation that we will vote on today. We are back to exactly where we started. Thank you, Mr. President, for shutting down the government and holding 800,000 federal employees hostage. All for nothing!
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) January 25, 2019
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For the federal employees who’ve been experiencing financial hardship, Trump said they’d “receive their back-pay very quickly or as soon as possible.” He continued to assert his claims about border crime, including that human traffickers are making “a right turn going very quickly” in vans filled with women towards the US border, and argued that “walls should not be controversial” while invoking Israel’s internationally-condemned apartheid wall.
“If we don’t get a fair deal from Congress, either the government will shut down on Feb. 15 again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and the Constitution of the United States to address this emergency,” Trump added.
In response to Trump’s threat of another shutdown, Sanders, speaking from the Senate floor, said, “I think that the time is long overdue for the American people to tell this president he is not a dictator, he is not a king.”
“He is the president of the United States, and he cannot and he must not continue to threaten to shut down this government and hold hundreds of thousands of … federal workers hostage,” Sanders said. He also expressed concern about the “over one million contract employees … who not only have lost pay,” but face the prospect of receiving no back-pay.
Instead of a singular focus on a racist border wall, Sanders urged Trump to recognize other crises affecting the nation, including the “30 million Americans who have no health insurance” and “many more who are under-insured”; the “tens of millions of workers working for starvation wages”; the fact there is only a “short window of opportunity to address the global crisis of climate change”; our “broken criminal justice system”; as well as “an immigration system… that does not work.”
“How sad it is that after all the suffering … we are back to exactly where we were five weeks ago,” the senator lamented.
Moving forward, Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy Action, urged members of Congress to “continue to refuse any future deal to fund Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. Any funding that facilitates the expansion of the wall, or additional capacity for ICE and Border Patrol, will result in more deaths at the border, more children in cages, and more families torn apart.”
“Our government needs to stay open, and workers need to get paid for their work without causing more harm to refugees and families,” she added. “Members of Congress should focus their efforts on passing a budget that helps people thrive by investing in good jobs, education, housing, healthcare, clean air and water, and more.”
Emma Einhorn, campaign director for MoveOn, similarly urged Congress “not give into Trump’s demand for increased funding for a wall, his deportation machine, or border militarization in the next round of this fight.”
“To be clear,” she added in her statement, “the only crisis on the US-Mexico border is the crisis of the Trump Administration’s cruel policies towards families and children seeking asylum — ripping kids from their parents, locking them in jails, criminalizing the legal right to seek asylum, and tear-gassing women and children.”
The shutdown seemed to reach a critical point earlier on Friday when major US airports reported significant delays because of staff shortages. And on Thursday, a pair of dueling bills to end the shutdown failed.